Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Top Ten Lists - Ten Favorite Games I Own

It's the end of the year, so time to make up all sorts of lists of things that no one but me really cares about. I give Tom Vasel a *lot* of crap about his top ten lists, so don't be surprised if I don't actually *have* ten items in each list!

My first list will be the Top Ten Games I Own. These are my faves, not games that were particularly groundbreaking, but instead games that I enjoy playing the most. They are in no particular order, but more based on where they happen to be in my gaming room. You see, this is an extremely appropriate list as this is the first time all of these games have been in the same space.

Ra - Knizia was at his best when the mechanisms were simple and the scoring complex (E&T aside). This push your luck game remains one of my favorites, although I believe it only truly works when you play with three so it doesn't come out much.

Traumfabrik - I have not played the US version (Hollywood ), but I can say that even with German movie titles I really like having actual 30's and 40's actors and directors in the game. I think this game plays well with any number, and the closed economic system takes it from a good game to a great game.

Around the World in 80 Days - Light fun, but with surprising depth. I think it works better with more players, but even with four it's a great time. I love race games, and in this one you get to race the other players *and* the clock.

Carcassone: The Discovery - Choosing when to score points adds both tension and decisions to the best of the Carc series. The City is a close second, but this one wins by a nose.

Ticket to Ride - I still like the original the best of the three (haven't played Suisse yet). I love the 1910 tickets, which is why I give it the edge over the others in the series. Maerklin may have a little *too* much tension for me.

Incan Gold - I helped Jesse in his store over the holidays, and I could have sold 15 of these had they been in stock. And it wasn't because I know the publishers.

Power Grid - When it works, it works. Rewards the long view, if you are willing to adjust to the whims of fate (and what power stations become available). And it scales quite well.

Tichu - I grew up playing Bridge and Pinochle, and this is the only game in my collection that feels like those classics. A sentimental favorite for sure.

Medici - The best six-player designer game. 21!

San Juan - My favorite filler, although this one looks to be eclipsed by Race for the Galaxy at some point.

Well, that's ten designer games. I guess this has just morphed into two lists. Here are the wargames:

Combat Commander - My favorite wargame, if I'm not worried about winning a tournament. The most evolutionary design since We the People. Hands down has the best literary elements of any game on this list.

A Victory Lost - My favorite old-school design, although the chit activation system brings it into the 21st Century quite well.

WW2: Barbarossa to Berlin - A close siblling to Paths of Glory, my favorite element of this game is that the Germans are almost certainly going to lose the war, but it depends on how *badly* they lose the war. A great arc, as well. Even though the Allies just keep getting stronger from 1943 on, the fact that they have to pick and choose where they make their efforts gives it extra life in the endgame, even for the Germans.

Successors - My favorite multiplayer wargame. This one keeps getting new life through new editions, although the second ed had about seven too many rules and a convoluted rulebook. I'm hoping that the 3rd ed cleans up those problems while keeping the overall flair of 2nd ed. The best "do the most with the least" game, where maneuver is as important as combat, and when you attack is as important as where.

Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage - Yet another CDG, but arguably the best of the bunch. Reprinted recently using the slightly stripped down 2nd ed rules that had been online for 10 years, it is a gem of elegance and tension. While tight games can come down to who draws what cards on the final turn, I have to say that the game I played at WBC where my opponent would win on a die roll of 4 through 6 has to have been my favorite. Always a great story, too.

Manifest Destiny - A checkered development history, some astonishingly poor art choices, and some thematic problems don't prevent this game, a descendent of Civ and Age of Renaissance, from making the list. I like it with any number, but it definitely feels different with three as opposed to five. I even like the Breakthroughs, although they are the least effective part of the game.

Britannia - The first and best of an entire family of games. The FFG version breathes new life with a few added rules, but the strengths are very nice components and a clear ruleset. The biggest drawback is that it only really works with four players.

History of the World - The AH version, please. I suppose the original Ragnar Brothers version would do as well. The Hasbro version takes what was a great "hold back until the end" game and made it loopy. Playing against really good players is a joy, even if all of your hard work to draw first in the final round nets you the US. Only works with six, though - too much chance for someone to get away with the Romans followed by a decent (non-Khmer) pick in the fourth round.

Breakout: Normandy - The best of the Impulse Movement games. Monty's Gamble plays faster, but this one just has the right balance of scope and deperation. I love the combat resolution system best of all, it almost defies computation. The biggest plus - you have to plan your impulses carefully and hope you can get everything done in time for nightfall if you are the Allies. My favorite solitaire game of the bunch.

War At Sea - Buckets of dice. Victory in the Pacific and Nine Navies War are both close, but this one wins on more *not* being better. Takes a fairly obscure subject (capital ship combat in the ETO in WWII, something that rarely happened) and makes it into a chess match.

Hammer of the Scots - Gotta have a block game in here. I haven't played Rommel in the Desert or East Front enough for it to make the list, and I really enjoy how the various Scottish nobles choose contingency over valor, switching sides as soon as it starts getting too hot in the kitchen (*their* kitchen, to be specific). Wins over Liberty and Crusader Rex in a heartbeat.

Clearly I favor lighter wargames over the longer and more complex ones, mostly because I've had very little opportunity or space for the latter. But hey, it's my list. Make your own if you don't like it.

There are several games I'm sure people feel should be on here: Euphrates und Tigris is an obvious choice, as is El Grande. I also neglected to put a Martin Wallace game in the list, mostly because they've seen little play in our group. These, however, are the ones that have given me the most joy over the years, the ones I feel I can consistently compete at, and the ones that come to mind when I'm asked what I like to play.

Next up: the 10 worst games I still own. Sadly, Rocketville went to Goodwill before the move!

1 comment:

Yehuda said...

Re Power Grid: We have "fixed" the game, according to us. Have the top four next cards in the power station deck face up.

Arrange them like another row on top of the future market, except that the right most plant always drops down and all the other ones shift right.

This reduces all of the luck while maintaining all of the fun, tactics, and strategy.